Funeral Instructions in Michigan Get an Assist from New Law

Now you can direct your funeral from the great beyond, if you live in the Wolverine State.

Here’s a concept that is perfect for people who like to be in charge: about two years ago, Michigan enacted a law that lets you name a funeral representative, a person who is empowered by law to make decisions about your memorial and where your remains, cremated or not, will rest.

Irish-handsThe Detroit Free Press’ recent article, “Law helps ensure your family follows your funeral wishes in Michigan,” suggests that a funeral representative can make sure there won’t be a disagreement among family members about funeral planning.

The issue arose recently when a Grosse Pointe Park funeral home attempted to return cremated remains left at Cantrell Funeral Home in Detroit to families of the deceased. Some family members said they would’ve claimed them before, but they weren't next of kin. In that case, a funeral representative could have settled a family fight over where the person would be buried. The deceased, who remarried later in life, made plans to be buried next to his deceased first wife. However, his new spouse wanted him to be buried in another cemetery. Her wishes prevailed, creating hard feelings for his survivors.

Michigan’s law recognizes the deceased’s representative authority to make decisions about the funeral and resting place after death. This agent can solve any issues and ease the stress among surviving relatives.

When a person agrees to be a rep, they should understand that it's a significant responsibility which includes making certain the deceased's funeral expenses are paid. In addition, consider this valuable information about funeral representatives:

A funeral representative is an individual who, under state law, is "designated to have the right and power to make decisions about funeral arrangements and the handling, disposition, or disinterment of a decedent’s body." This entails all decisions about cremation and "the right to possess cremated remains of the decedent." A representative signs an acknowledgement of duties and the authority is only effective after death and can’t be assigned to someone else. The order for someone having legal authority to make decisions is a person designated under federal law, usually if the person is serving in the military; your designated state funeral representative; a surviving spouse, adult children, adult grandchildren, parents, grandparents and then siblings.

A funeral representative can be designated in your will, health care power of attorney or a separate document that has two witnesses or is notarized. Funeral homes in the state should have a document that can be filled out designating a representative. Unless the person is a spouse or close relative, the law prohibits these individuals from being named a representative:

  • a licensed health professional;
  • an employee of a health or veterans’ facility that provided you care;
  • an officer or employee of a funeral home, crematory or cemetery providing you services; or
  • anyone charged with murdering you.

This authorization can be revoked with a written notice that is notarized or has two witnesses. The law automatically revokes the power to a named ex-spouse.

If you do not live in Michigan and you want to be sure that certain things happen with your memorial service, know where you wish to be buried or what you want to have happen with your remains if you want to be cremated, speak with an estate planning attorney to document your wishes. Speak with family members also, so they know what you want.

Reference: Detroit Free Press(November 2, 2018) “Law helps ensure your family follows your funeral wishes in Michigan”

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